Young players Cabrera, Sanchez emerging as Marlins beat Cubs, split four-game series

The Miami Marlins have not gotten off to the best start this season. They entered Sunday with a 5-17 record and 10 1/2 games back in the National League East. But the Marlins know they still have plenty of games left to climb the standings.

The key for them to climb those standings, though, will be the production of the young players.

That was on display in the Marlins’ 6-3 win against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on Sunday afternoon, as Jesús Sánchez launched a towering home run and Edward Cabrera gave the team five solid innings.

The win gave the Marlins their sixth win of the young season and most importantly, allowed them to split the series (2-2) this weekend in Chicago. That split is the first time Miami did not lose a series this year.

The team can point to the play of Cabrera, Sanchez, and a strong fourth inning on offense — in which they totaled four hits — in Sunday’s win.

“I honestly think that we have a really good team,” Sánchez said through translator Will Nadal. “I think right now we’re in harmony. We’re in sync. I think we have a good team, and I hope we can keep it going.”

It hasn’t necessarily been smooth sailing for the Marlins’ rotation early in 2024 after losing Sandy Alcantara (elbow) and Eury Perez (elbow) to season-ending injuries and Braxton Garrett (shoulder) to the injured list in the first few weeks.

However, Cabrera has given the team some stability atop the rotation so far.

He delivered six innings of one-run ball with 10 strikeouts in his first start of the year against the San Francisco Giants and then gave Miami a chance to win on Sunday behind five innings.

“If you look at my first two starts last year, I probably had [6 2/3] combined innings with the two outings together,” Cabrera said through a translator. “I’m having more success out there, and I think I’m doing pretty well this year compared to last.”

Cabrera’s final line might not have been as strong as his first start. But his three earned runs across five innings with seven strikeouts on Sunday was good enough to keep the Marlins in the game.

How the right-hander performs during the next months could be a big indicator if the team can overcome their slow start.

“Old Cabrera would have given up six or seven runs,” manager Skip Schumaker said. “That showed what he is all about. The maturity level has really turned the corner for me. I saw it in Spring Training, and then as soon as he came back from the IL, he’s just been a different guy out there.”

Another big indicator for this Marlins team will be the play of Sánchez — who has had his struggles out of the gate.

He entered the day hitting just .191 with zero extra-base hits and 14 strikeouts across 17 games. Nevertheless, he showed some life at the plate in the win.

The 26-year-old hit a mammoth home run in the second inning that traveled 460 feet over the batter’s eye in center field.

Then, the slugger came up to the plate with runners on first and third in the fourth inning and delivered an RBI single to give the Marlins a 2-1 lead.

Both hits were also hit hard, totaling an exit velocity of 113.6 mph on the homer and 108 mph on the single.

“Honestly, it feels really good,” Sánchez said. “But I think what the team wants and what I want is just to win games.”

The potential has always been there for Sánchez to produce in the Majors.

He is a former top-50 prospect who has had some really nice stretches with the Marlins.

Last season, the outfielder had a 16-game span from May 3 to June 7, where he hit .392 (20 for 51) with five home runs, six doubles and 13 RBI.

Miami, though, hasn’t seen consistent production from him over his short career. They are hoping that Sunday’s game is a sign of what’s to come for the young outfielder.

“Sánchez showed what he can do last year when you give him a run, and he’s really good,” Schumaker said. “I’ll bet against any righty against him because he’s that good at the plate.”